United Nations


General Assembly

Distr. GENERAL  

16 April 1985


                                                     16 April 1985
                      Consumer protection
The General Assembly,
Recalling Economic and Social Council resolution 1981/62 of 23 July 1981, in
which the Council requested the Secretary-General to continue consultations on
consumer protection with a view to elaborating a set of general guidelines for
consumer protection, taking particularly into account the needs of the
developing countries,
Recalling further General Assembly resolution 38/147 of 19 December 1983,
Noting Economic and Social Council resolution 1984/63 of 26 July 1984,
1.   Decides to adopt the guidelines for consumer protection annexed to the
present resolution;
2.   Requests the Secretary-General to disseminate the guidelines to
Governments and other interested parties;
3.   Requests all organizations of the United Nations system that elaborate
guidelines and related documents on specific areas relevant to consumer
protection to distribute them to the appropriate bodies of individual States.
                           I.  Objectives
1.   Taking into account the interests and needs of consumers in all
countries, particularly those in developing countries; recognizing that
consumers often face imbalances in economic terms, educational levels, and
bargaining power; and bearing in mind that consumers should have the right of
access to non-hazardous products, as well as the right to promote just,
equitable and sustainable economic and social development, these guidelines
for consumer protection have the following objectives:
(a)  To assist countries in achieving or maintaining adequate protection for
their population as consumers;
(b)  To facilitate production and distribution patterns responsive to the
needs and desires of consumers;
(c)  To encourage high levels of ethical conduct for those engaged in the
production and distribution of goods and services to consumers;
(d)  To assist countries in curbing abusive business practices by all
enterprises at the national and international levels which adversely affect
(e)  To facilitate the development of independent consumer groups;
(f)  To further international co-operation in the field of consumer
(g)  To encourage the development of market conditions which provide consumers
with greater choice at lower prices.
                      II.  General principles
2.   Governments should develop, strengthen or maintain a strong consumer
protection policy, taking into account the guidelines set out below.  In so
doing, each Government must set its own priorities for the protection of
consumers in accordance with the economic and social circumstances of the
country, and the needs of its population, and bearing in mind the costs and
benefits of proposed measures.
3.   The legitimate needs which the guidelines are intended to meet are the
(a)  The protection of consumers from hazards to their health and safety;
(b)  The promotion and protection of the economic interests of consumers;
(c)  Access of consumers to adequate information to enable them to make
informed choices according to individual wishes and needs;
(d)  Consumer education;
(e)  Availability of effective consumer redress;
(f)  Freedom to form consumer and other relevant groups or organizations and
the opportunity of such organizations to present their views in
decision-making processes affecting them.
4.   Governments should provide or maintain adequate infrastructure to
develop, implement and monitor consumer protection policies.  Special care
should be taken to ensure that measures for consumer protection are
implemented for the benefit of all sectors of the population, particularly the
rural population.
5.   All enterprises should obey the relevant laws and regulations of the
countries in which they do business.  They should also conform to the
appropriate provisions of international standards for consumer protection to
which the competent authorities of the country in question have agreed.
(Hereinafter references to international standards in the guidelines should be
viewed in the context of this paragraph.)
6.   The potential positive role of universities and public and private
enterprises in research should be considered when developing consumer
protection policies.
                          III.  Guidelines
7.   The following guidelines should apply both to home-produced goods and
services and to imports.
8.   In applying any procedures or regulations for consumer protection, due
regard should be given to ensuring that they do not become barriers to
international trade and that they are consistent with international trade
                        A.  Physical safety
9.   Governments should adopt or encourage the adoption of appropriate
measures, including legal systems, safety regulations, national or
international standards, voluntary standards and the maintenance of safety
records to ensure that products are safe for either intended or normally
foreseeable use.
10.  Appropriate policies should ensure that goods produced by manufacturers
are safe for either intended or normally foreseeable use.  Those responsible
for bringing goods to the market, in particular suppliers, exporters,
importers, retailers and the like (hereinafter referred to as "distributors"),
should ensure that while in their care these goods are not rendered unsafe
through improper handling or storage and that while in their care they do not
become hazardous through improper handling or storage.  Consumers should be
instructed in the proper use of goods and should be informed of the risks
involved in intended or normally foreseeable use.  Vital safety information
should be conveyed to consumers by internationally understandable symbols
wherever possible.
11.  Appropriate policies should ensure that if manufacturers or distributors
become aware of unforeseen hazards after products are placed on the market,
they should notify the relevant authorities and, as appropriate, the public
without delay.  Governments should also consider ways of ensuring that
consumers are properly informed of such hazards.
12.  Governments should, where appropriate, adopt policies under which, if a
product is found to be seriously defective and/or to constitute a substantial
and severe hazard even when properly used, manufacturers and/or distributors
should recall it and replace or modify it, or substitute another product for
it; if it is not possible to do this within a reasonable period of time, the
consumer should be adequately compensated.
   B.  Promotion and protection of consumers' economic interests
13.  Government policies should seek to enable consumers to obtain optimum
benefit from their economic resources.  They should also seek to achieve the
goals of satisfactory production and performance standards, adequate
distribution methods, fair business practices, informative marketing and
effective protection against practices which could adversely affect the
economic interests of consumers and the exercise of choice in the
14.  Governments should intensify their efforts to prevent practices which are
damaging to the economic interests of consumers through ensuring that
manufacturers, distributors and others involved in the provision of goods and
services adhere to established laws and mandatory standards.  Consumer
organizations should be encouraged to monitor adverse practices, such as the
adulteration of foods, false or misleading claims in marketing and service
15.  Governments should develop, strengthen or maintain, as the case may be,
measures relating to the control of restrictive and other abusive business
practices which may be harmful to consumers, including means for the
enforcement of such measures.  In this connection, Governments should be
guided by their commitment to the Set of Multilaterally Agreed Equitable
Principles and Rules for the Control of Restrictive Business Practices adopted
by the General Assembly in resolution 35/63 of 5 December 1980.
16.  Governments should adopt or maintain policies that make clear the
responsibility of the producer to ensure that goods meet reasonable demands of
durability, utility and reliability, and are suited to the purpose for which
they are intended, and that the seller should see that these requirements are
met.  Similar policies should apply to the provision of services.
17.  Governments should encourage fair and effective competition in order to
provide consumers with the greatest range of choice among products and
services at the lowest cost.
18.  Governments should, where appropriate, see to it that manufacturers
and/or retailers ensure adequate availability of reliable after-sales service
and spare parts.
19.  Consumers should be protected from such contractual abuses as one-sided
standard contracts, exclusion of essential rights in contracts, and
unconscionable conditions of credit by sellers.
20.  Promotional marketing and sales practices should be guided by the
principle of fair treatment of consumers and should meet legal requirements.
This requires the provision of the information necessary to enable consumers
to take informed and independent decisions, as well as measures to ensure that
the information provided is accurate.
21.  Governments should encourage all concerned to participate in the free
flow of accurate information on all aspects of consumer products.
22.  Governments should, within their own national context, encourage the
formulation and implementation by business, in co-operation with consumer
organizations, of codes of marketing and other business practices to ensure
adequate consumer protection.  Voluntary agreements may also be established
jointly by business, consumer organizations and other interested parties.
These codes should receive adequate publicity.
23.  Governments should regularly review legislation pertaining to weights and
measures and assess the adequacy of the machinery for its enforcement.
       C.   Standards for the safety and quality of consumer goods
            and services
24.  Governments should, as appropriate, formulate or promote the elaboration
and implementation of standards, voluntary and other, at the national and
international levels for the safety and quality of goods and services and give
them appropriate publicity.  National standards and regulations for product
safety and quality should be reviewed from time to time, in order to ensure
that they conform, where possible, to generally accepted international
25.  Where a standard lower than the generally accepted international standard
is being applied because of local economic conditions, every effort should be
made to raise that standard as soon as possible.
26.  Governments should encourage and ensure the availability of facilities to
test and certify the safety, quality and performance of essential consumer
goods and services.
         D.  Distribution facilities for essential consumer goods
             and services
27.  Governments should, where appropriate, consider:
(a)  Adopting or maintaining policies to ensure the efficient distribution of
goods and services to consumers; where appropriate, specific policies should
be considered to ensure the distribution of essential goods and services where
this distribution is endangered, as could be the case particularly in rural
areas.  Such policies could include assistance for the creation of adequate
storage and retail facilities in rural centres, incentives for consumer
self-help and better control of the conditions under which essential goods and
services are provided in rural areas;
(b)  Encouraging the establishment of consumer co-operatives and related
trading activities, as well as information about them, especially in rural
         E.  Measures enabling consumers to obtain redress
28.  Governments should establish or maintain legal and/or administrative
measures to enable consumers or, as appropriate, relevant organizations to
obtain redress through formal or informal procedures that are expeditious,
fair, inexpensive and accessible.  Such procedures should take particular
account of the needs of low-income consumers.
29.  Governments should encourage all enterprises to resolve consumer disputes
in a fair, expeditious and informal manner, and to establish voluntary
mechanisms, including advisory services and informal complaints procedures,
which can provide assistance to consumers.
30.  Information on available redress and other dispute-resolving procedures
should be made available to consumers.
              F.  Education and information programmes
31.  Governments should develop or encourage the development of general
consumer education and information programmes, bearing in mind the cultural
traditions of the people concerned.  The aim of such programmes should be to
enable people to act as discriminating consumers, capable of making an
informed choice of goods and services, and conscious of their rights and
responsibilities.  In developing such programmes, special attention should be
given to the needs of disadvantaged consumers, in both rural and urban areas,
including low-income consumers and those with low or non-existent literacy
32.  Consumer education should, where appropriate, become an integral part of
the basic curriculum of the educational system, preferably as a component of
existing subjects.
33.  Consumer education and information programmes should cover such important
aspects of consumer protection as the following:
(a)  Health, nutrition, prevention of food-borne diseases and food
(b)  Product hazards;
(c)  Product labelling;
(d)  Relevant legislation, how to obtain redress, and agencies and
organizations for consumer protection;
(e)  Information on weights and measures, prices, quality, credit conditions
and availability of basic necessities; and
(f)  As appropriate, pollution and environment.
34.  Governments should encourage consumer organizations and other interested
groups, including the media, to undertake education and information
programmes, particularly for the benefit of low-income consumer groups in
rural and urban areas.
35.  Business should, where appropriate, undertake or participate in factual
and relevant consumer education and information programmes.
36.  Bearing in mind the need to reach rural consumers and illiterate
consumers, Governments should, as appropriate, develop or encourage the
development of consumer information programmes in the mass media.
37.  Governments should organize or encourage training programmes for
educators, mass media professionals and consumer advisers, to enable them to
participate in carrying out consumer information and education programmes.
              G.  Measures relating to specific areas
38.  In advancing consumer interests, particularly in developing countries,
Governments should, where appropriate, give priority to areas of essential
concern for the health of the consumer, such as food, water and
pharmaceuticals.  Policies should be adopted or maintained for product quality
control, adequate and secure distribution facilities, standardized
international labelling and information, as well as education and research
programmes in these areas.  Government guidelines in regard to specific areas
should be developed in the context of the provisions of this document.
39.  Food.  When formulating national policies and plans with regard to food,
Governments should take into account the need of all consumers for food
security and should support and, as far as possible, adopt standards from the
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and the World Health
Organization Codex Alimentarius or, in their absence, other generally accepted
international food standards.  Governments should maintain, develop or improve
food safety measures, including, inter alia, safety criteria, food standards
and dietary requirements and effective monitoring, inspection and evaluation
40.  Water.  Governments should, within the goals and targets set for the
International Drinking Water Supply and Sanitation Decade, formulate, maintain
or strengthen national policies to improve the supply, distribution and
quality of water for drinking.  Due regard should be paid to the choice of
appropriate levels of service, quality and technology, the need for education
programmes and the importance of community participation.
41.  Pharmaceuticals.  Governments should develop or maintain adequate
standards, provisions and appropriate regulatory systems for ensuring the
quality and appropriate use of pharmaceuticals through integrated national
drug policies which could address, inter alia, procurement, distribution,
production, licensing arrangements, registration systems and the availability
of reliable information on pharmaceuticals.  In so doing, Governments should
take special account of the work and recommendations of the World Health
Organization on pharmaceuticals.  For relevant products, the use of that
organization's Certification Scheme on the Quality of Pharmaceutical Products
Moving in International Commerce and other international information systems
on pharmaceuticals should be encouraged.  Measures should also be taken, as
appropriate, to promote the use of international non-proprietary names (INNs)
for drugs, drawing on the work done by the World Health Organization.
42.  In addition to the priority areas indicated above, Governments should
adopt appropriate measures in other areas, such as pesticides and chemicals in
regard, where relevant, to their use, production and storage, taking into
account such relevant health and environmental information as Governments may
require producers to provide and include in the labelling of products.
                  IV.  International co-operation
43.  Governments should, especially in a regional or subregional context:
(a)  Develop, review, maintain or strengthen, as appropriate, mechanisms for
the exchange of information on national policies and measures in the field of
consumer protection;
(b)  Co-operate or encourage co-operation in the implementation of consumer
protection policies to achieve greater results within existing resources.
Examples of such co-operation could be collaboration in the setting up or
joint use of testing facilities, common testing procedures, exchange of
consumer information and education programmes, joint training programmes and
joint elaboration of regulations;
(c)  Co-operate to improve the conditions under which essential goods are
offered to consumers, giving due regard to both price and quality.  Such
co-operation could include joint procurement of essential goods, exchange of
information on different procurement possibilities and agreements on regional
product specifications.
44.  Governments should develop or strengthen information links regarding
products which have been banned, withdrawn or severely restricted in order to
enable other importing countries to protect themselves adequately against the
harmful effects of such products.
45.  Governments should work to ensure that the quality of products, and
information relating to such products, does not vary from country to country
in a way that would have detrimental effects on consumers.
46.  Governments should work to ensure that policies and measures for consumer
protection are implemented with due regard to their not becoming barriers to
international trade, and that they are consistent with international trade